January 5, 2011

What did the Kurdistan Regional President say?

Words are responded to by words - By Aras Fatah and Mariwan Kanie  

When the Regional President delivers a speech, it is not a necessary condition that we must all listen to him, but when he threatens we have to listen seriously. The Regional President of the Kurdistan Region is not an ordinary man in the structure of power for us to ignore his speech. The Regional President’s anger is not comparable to that of Kurdistan Democratic Party’s heads of branches, the politburo, or members of the high committee. If anyone looks into the political system in Kurdistan they will find that it is a presidential system where the Regional President’s authority is great and widespread. It can impede the parliament's power. Without returning to the parliament the Regional President can declare the state of emergency and impose it. He can even amnesty the criminals and erase their offences. The Regional President is the head of the armed forces and the head of his party. He is virtually the number one person in all the important organs of security in the region, at least in the territory controlled by his own party. These capacities are organised in a manner where there are no mechanisms or tools to monitor his power and make him accountable.

In his latest appearance in Kurdistan Region's Parliament, the Regional    President delivered a menacing speech that forces us to calmly consider its political connotations and implications. In our opinion the President’s speech in parliament was such that our society must study it and understand its hidden meanings. Not only this, our community must hear the unsaid words that were implied by what he said. If anyone understands political language, they can figure out that there are un-uttered sentences behind each sentence. Sometimes what has been implied is much more dangerous and important that what has been said.

The Regional President inside the Parliament

First of all, let's start with the Regional President's visit to parliament. When the Regional President saw that there were no journalists in the parliament, he did not ask: Where are the journalists who are supposed to deliver my speech to my people? As if he did not want or he did not consider it important that the journalists cover the news of his visit and make public his speech to the mass media and public opinion without going through any filters. On the other hand, at the end of his speech the Regional President immediately left the Parliament and did not give an opportunity to his nation's representatives to discuss his views, or at least to provide feedback on his speech. The Regional President's behavior inside the Parliament gave the impression that so long as %70 of Kurdistan's people have voted for him there is no need to listen to the views and opinions of the Parliament members who are the real   representatives of the Kurdish people, or at least to listen to the other % 30 of the people who did not vote for him.
In his speech the Regional president insisted and called on the supremacy of law and said: "No one should be above the law". Meanwhile the Regional President himself contradicted his own words in two ways. On the one hand, he did not say anything about the prevention of journalists from attending the Parliament during his speech, which is a direct and sheer violation of the journalists’ and people's rights. On the other hand, he did not give the MPs a chance to have a short conversation with him. The Regional President turned the people's representative inside the Parliament into a silent audience. This is a grave threat that the whole society should resist: the danger of an authoritative person who talks about the supremacy of law on the one hand and on the other he disrespects that law before anyone else.
Whom did the Regional President threaten? 

The Regional President's speech in the Parliament was intimidating for three reasons. First of all, it was an attack on freedom per se. Secondly, it was an attack on free media and free press in Kurdistan. Thirdly, it was accusing the Change Movement (Goran) of sabotage even though the Regional President did not directly name this political movement. Here we have nothing to say in relation to the KDP and its leader’s relationship with the Change Movement. What is important to us is the Regional President's threat on liberty and free press. In fact, we rarely find a President of any country attack the liberty and freedom of press so openly as the KRG President. In his speech he clearly attacked these two aspects and said: "What is now done in the name of freedom is not freedom", it is only "chaos". He did not merely stick to this but he went on to create an imaginary enemy for our community and "humanity!!!" He accused the free media and openly said: "They are about to spoil the conditions of Kurdism and humanity". According to him what is now practiced in Kurdistan in not freedom but "misuse of the free condition that is now available". Following this he concluded by "frankly" saying: "This should not be tolerated anymore".

The Regional President's words are crystal clear for the ordinary reader. They are a direct threat to liberty and freedom of press. Our fear is that the Regional President's excuses for his attack on liberty and free media are the same excuses that have been used by despotic and tyrant leaders who have used them against freedom throughout history.

Most dictatorships have repeatedly used similar excuses. Using a similar logic they have equated freedom with chaos and regarded freedom as a threat to the ethics of society and supposedly to national security. From this point of view, Kurdistan's Regional President is not the only person who has this attitude towards liberty and for sure he will not be the last one. Any political system that fears liberty has used such words and will carry on using them. The catastrophe is that the Regional President is the leader of a nation that struggled for freedom for a century. Countless numbers of people have scarified themselves for the sake of freedom. It is, therefore, frustrating and disappointing to see the Regional President of such a nation simply and outrageously attack liberty and free media, talk about the threats of these on his nation's political experience, and recklessly equate them with chaos. Contrary to what the Regional President says, we believe that what has led to chaos in Kurdistan is not a widespread freedom of the society and free press, but the absolute freedom enjoyed by a small group of political elite, who are above all legal and ethical measures, and lead this country according to their self-interests. This small elite deem unlimited freedom for themselves and they dream of silencing the society. If anyone hears the Regional President's address without knowledge of the situation in Kurdistan, they will have the vision that Kurdistan is full of free media and irresponsible journalists who are an adversary to their nation's experience. They will imagine a media that unjustly instigates the public opinion against the authorities, twists the facts, and shows a false image of life in Kurdistan. On the other hand, this creates a sense that the authorities are a victim of this media and have no channels of their own to defend themselves. Anyone who has little knowledge of Kurdistan will have a totally different image of the conditions of free media to that outlined by the Regional President of Kurdistan.

The fact is that % 90 of Kurdistan's media is directly or indirectly under the control of the two main parties and is prudently conducted by them. The free media, on the other hand, is very small. Its human and financial capacities are limited. In fact it does not exceed two weekly papers, a radio station and a small number of magazines. The political media has thousands of staff, several satellites channels, tens of local TV stations, hundreds of radios, newspapers, magazines and electronic websites. Millions out of the public budget is unlawfully spent for this empire of political media, and a huge number of obedient media workers are working to present the image favoured by the authorities as the truth. It is quite bewildering how the Regional President does not see this unattractive picture of his country. He never asks himself why these two independent weekly papers and a handful of magazines and radio stations are more effective and have more audiences as compared to the empire of media conducted by the authorities. Kurdish people trust this free media not because they like false news and lies, quite the contrary, because they believe that this small media sheds light on the issues that are directly related to their lives, and reflects the sorrows and true problems of the society. Even worse, the Regional President jumps over another tragic fact when he fails to see that throughout the years following the 1991 uprising, it has been free media that has been prosecuted on daily basis not the big army of corruption, the same corruption that our friends and foes are talking about while the party affiliated media keeps silent about it.

Who deformed the Kurdish Personality?

In another section of his speech, the Regional President shed light on the distortion of the ‘Kurdish personality’ and said: "Honorables! Reconstructing an apartment is easy while the rebuilding of personality is quite difficult. The unfair distortion of the Kurdish personality is a crime committed against a nation". We agree that reconstructing an apartment is easy while rebuilding a personality is quite difficult. We also agree that destruction of a personality is an offence committed first against the person and secondly against his nation. But let's ask ourselves, is the Kurdish personality really destroyed? If we regard this thesis as true, then we have to ask ourselves who has "really destroyed and distorted the Kurdish people's personality"? Who has devastated the image of Kurdish personality in itself? Who has ‘disarrayed’ the Kurdish person’s image of himself? Who has muddled the condition of Kurdism? Who "attacks the people's rights without reason, and does not grant the people to defend themselves according to the law"?

First of all, the building of personality is not done in a day or two; it is a long and ongoing historical process. Likewise degrading and distorting individuals’ personalities is the product of implementing a frustrating and humiliating policy of disregard for human beings. It is the result of not treating an individual as a person who has a will of his own, who has rights and deserves respect. This person is frightened and does not dare to ask questions. He does not dare to name things what they are be they true or false. He has been prevented from seeing what world he lives in and how it is conducted. He has been prevented from feeling that he belongs to a country that respects his dignity and personality, a country that treats him justly and gives him the opportunity to realize some of his dreams and hopes. Now we want ask: Who is responsible for the occurrence of these conditions after the uprising? Who has made our people hopeless? Are the Kurdish intellectuals and the small number of independent magazines and newspapers which have come to existence in the last decade responsible for this or the irresponsible policy of the political parties which is full of hypocrisy, hatred, insult and violence constituting  our political , cultural and social life. It is the free media and intellectuals that have distorted and degraded the personality of our individuals or this model of authority that works on diminishing human beings and not treating them equally?

Furthermore, whose personality has really been distorted? It is that segment of our society who spares no opportunity to speak out and reject the injustice, unfairness and misuse of power or those who say ‘yes sir’ to the parties and authorities and have nothing to say or do except agreeing? Are the personalities of those who peacefully take to the streets and raise their voices to end the culture of silencing, threatening and killing of journalists distorted or those who are silent about all these important events in their country?  

The Regional President should have been proud of the fact that a large part of our society has the will, power and awareness to stand against the injustice and to ask for further liberty, rights, and respect. He should have been aware that freedom cannot be divided and that responsibility is a stance that forever remains in the living conscience.

The Regional President should have known that it was this culture of resistance which saved our nation from extinction, not subjugation and irresponsiveness against oppression. This new culture of resistance that we see in Kurdistan is the continuation of a long history of political resistance through which our people protected their own humanity. In our opinion, one of the main pillars of Kurdish personality is embodied in the culture of resistance not in the subjugation to authority, even if the people in authority are Kurds.

Respectable Regional President! What you now observe in Kurdistan and deem negative, is not the distortion of the Kurdish personality, but it is a conscious defense of this personality. It is the emergence of this personality, its activation in history, and its taking responsibility for the surrounding world. Respectable Regional President! What you see now in Kurdistan is not the distortion of the Kurdish personality but, on contrary, it is an effort to prevent the distortion of this personality and saving it from surrendering to the wills of authorities or similar models of unjust governing. The protesting voices today are a civilised reemergence of the culture of resistance in our bloody history; this culture does not let the Kurdish personality to be wounded anymore. It does not allow politics to generate right-less, disrespected and wounded personalities anymore. The Regional President should have already regarded himself as the Regional President of this active section of our society. This section is the true continuation of the free will which throughout a century has moved our people towards struggle, resistance and revolution. He should not have regarded this active part of our society as troublemakers, saboteurs, and outlaws.

Who has defaced this region's experience?

In another section of his speech, the Regional President talked about the perils of distorting the image of Kurdistan’s political experience in the world. He said: "Our country is free and we have our own experience of self-government and administration. Today we have our own country, ourselves, and our personality. Therefore what is the benefit of distorting our own experience and projecting the wrong image of the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdish personality to the world?" Firstly, we would quickly like to remind the Regional President that even though it is true that our country is now free from the Baath Regime, this freedom in its general sense is facing a big threat today. There are daily violations against journalists and critics to the level of illegal arrest and murder. People are threatened on daily basis and their primary rights are only conditionally accepted. Those who do not sell themselves or surrender to the party not only their freedom is not protected but also their entire social life and livelihood is under threat. There is widespread injustice in terms of the distribution of the region's revenues and incomes.

The Regional President should know that there is a substantial difference between the act of criticism and the act of distortion. Kurdish self-criticism is not the same as the Kurdish enemies' criticism. Kurdish self-criticism is the result of a social and political concern that all active societies contain within themselves. This self-criticism is to prevent abuse of power and exploitation and also to find suitable solutions for the problems that the society suffers from. The writers’ and journalists’ critiques are a part and parcel of the Kurdish people's concern for their society. The roles that intellectuals and journalists played during the era of the Baath Regime and today in the self-governing Kurdish region have not lost their true value. The bad image of Kurdistan’s political experience abroad does not originate from the work of Kurdish intellectuals and journalists. This is the result of the international agencies documenting and publishing information on the freedom’s situation, the level of corruption, and the abuse of power in Kurdistan. It was the reports produced by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the official American agencies that showed a bad image of Kurdistan’s political experience to the public opinion. The Regional President should have remembered how significant similar reports were during the era of the Baath Party in presenting to the public opinion the ugly image of the Baath Regime and how it was oppressing the Kurds. It is strange that these agencies and organisations which until recently were regarded as true friends of the Kurds are now, alongside the independent Kurdish intellectuals and journalists, regarded as distorters of the image of Kurdistan's experience! Strangely enough, when the Kurdish politicians speak about the democracy of Kurdistan’s experience abroad they refer to the existence of the independent newspapers and magazines as a living evidence of their democracy. Inside Kurdistan, on the other hand, they attack these independent journalists and intellectuals and even regard them as saboteurs and distorters of the political experience in the Kurdish self-ruling authority.

Respectable Regional President! Kurdistan’s experience does not only belong to you as a group of politicians, it is also our experience as the intellectuals and journalists of this nation. In fact it is not us who are giving this experience a bad image but it is the Kurdish politicians’ practice and model of authority. It is not us "who are engaged with superficial things" as you claim, it is your army of journalists who have no other ‘national duty’ except from praising and complimenting the authorities.
The Consequence

In our opinion, the leader’s entire speech, in both its said and unsaid implications, was a threatening speech. In the parliament this gentleman threatened all the people who are dissatisfied with the political and administrative circumstances in Kurdistan, and view the Kurdistan region's experience as closed and contradictory to the basic human principles. They are discontented with the political logic which governs the region through party-politics, elitism and tribal authority. They are against the partisanship of the administrative, economic, military, and security institutions. They observe that Kurdistan has a group of rulers who believe that their main task is enacting laws for the others, while they themselves behave as if they are above the law. In actual fact we believe that if the Regional President's speech is implemented it will bring about a situation in Kurdistan which will be much uglier and crisis-ridden than it is now.

This article is an effort to prevent the coming into being of a world which lays behind the Regional President’s threats. This is why we, contrary to the Regional Presidents opinion, say that this should not be tolerated.

We, the undersigned, hereby support Aras Fatah and Mariwan Kanie 


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